What happens when technology can do great things for humanity, but doesn't make a lot of money? Jim Fruchterman explores the social entrepreneurship side of technology applications: how to get great tech tools to the people who often need them the most, but are least able to afford them!
My latest article was just published as an N-TEN Forecast, The Power of Technology Social Enterprises. I have been thinking about the technology community needing to take on a larger role in addressing society's problems. This article discusses how social enterprise works particularly well with technology.
I was excited enough about this that I'm already drafting a much longer article for another publication. I can feel a talk coming on already! Comments welcome.
We were talking about the Martus Project, Benetech's human rights documentation and monitoring software. The Asia Foundation and Benetech partnered on the first country launch of Martus in the Philippines. I covered the background of where Martus comes from and how the technology works. Tom talked about the real world experiences of using IT in the human rights field across the different islands of the Philippines.
Because Tom and I are both pragmatic technologists, we were able to talk about what the real issues are (and not engage in hype). They are rarely technological: most of the issues are around organizational dynamics, power relationships, trust. Human rights activists are human! As would be expected, 80% of the activity is…
Benetech achieves our goals with a great deal of assistance from people who share our dedication to technology better serving humanity. We are especially blessed with incredible volunteers.
Bookshare.org, our on-line electronic book library for people with disabilities, is built by volunteers. These folks are dedicated to the concept that access to books should have no barriers. They spend many hours scanning, proofing, cataloging and reviewing our collection, now over 15,000 books.
I'd like you to check our Bookshare.org - Volunteer of the Year. Carrie has done an awesome job, and her contributions help thousands of people with disabilities attain truly independent literacy.
I'm just coming down from the Davos experience: it was incredible. For a social entrepreneur like me, the opportunity to attend the World Economic Forum is a rare opportunity. The founder of the WEF, Klaus Schwab (and his lovely wife, Hilde), underwrites our participation to encourage business and government leaders to engage with social leaders in solving the world's problems.
And, they do engage, with enthusiasm. Outside the normal power structure of the corporation (or government), these leaders are interested and clearly stimulated by talking directly with other attendees about these issues. The interactions are at a peer level, without the normal screening that typically protects these leaders.
I can't begin to list the fistfuls of great conversations I had in my week in Switzerland. I talked to high tech corporate leaders, the heads of foundations, education ministers of different countries, several billionaires, major religious leaders, nonprofit (NGO in intern…